“Wait,” I hear you thinking. “Social media apps for children? I don’t want my kid on social media.” Neither do I, and yet we know they’ll try it out sooner or later.
Five million kids under age 10 already have Facebook accounts. (In case of “social media emergency,” click here.) This is sort of like having “the talk.” You want to get to it before they hear about the birds and the bees from some kid on the bus.
Enter social media apps for children. These apps can help parents guide young social media buffs in the ways of online communication. Parents provide them a safe, supervised environment and set clear ground rules about what’s okay to share, and what isn’t. Real names, street address (or even town), and school should all be off-limits, of course. That’s where these apps excel: they’re designed for children and parents, with teaching in mind.
It would be irresponsible to hand your child car keys before they’ve taken driving lessons, right? Same goes for social media. Train them up right! Empowering your child to participate in social networking might even help you to keep them safe.
Age ratings on the apps below come from Common Sense Media.
Ages not specified in Edmodo’s terms of service
Pretty much the safest place to start, Edmodo is a secure social learning platform for school districts. Teachers provide students with access codes, so they can access Edmodo to collaborate on academic projects.
Ages 7 and up
Anything Disney is family friendly, and Club Penguin is no exception. A virtual world with games, chat functionality, and Parental controls include time limits for app use and “safe chat” mode in which children select from preformatted messages instead of freely typing. There are rules of conduct, although some parents report inappropriate language used if the “free chat” option is used.
Parent Accounts enabled
Ages 13 and up (and Instagram’s terms of service)
No Parent Accounts, No Moderation
You know this is one of my favorites! That said, Instagram’s terms of service restrict the app’s use to people 13 and up (not that the restriction actually works). If you choose to let your child use Instagram, supervise their use carefully, and review the accounts they follow, ideally family and friends only. People frequently use profanity and post images that are inappropriate for children.
On the positive side, Instagram can provide an excellent outlet for a child’s artistic drive. When I have let my children take a picture for Instagram, their perspective is always fascinating, even if the focus is a teensy bit fuzzy.
Ages 13 and up, no age specified in Fanlala’s terms of service.
Pandora type app / streaming music player. Profanity free, family friendly.
Friend sharing and community functionality, so children can create stations and share them.
Bonus: Giant hello. http://www.gianthello.com (Actually a gaming site for kids, but with social elements) Can access using a mobile phone, though it’s not optimized. They’re currently working on an iPhone app.